[scribus] Canons of page construction

jwminer at accessvt.com jwminer at accessvt.com
Sat Jul 25 21:24:03 CEST 2009

Greg wrote:
> I think that such information is useful for conceptual and
> instructional
> purposes, but for many uses not so practical except for purists.
> It's
> easy to see that hardly any if any modern books use the Gutenberg
> proportions. What we see is that there are different plans depending
> on
> the content and purpose of the book.
> This isn't to say that there are not abundant examples of poor
> design
> and layout all around us. My advice would be to continue your quest
> for
> the opinions of others recognized as having something useful to say,
> but
> in the end pay attention to the layout of various publications you
> see,
> and when you find something displeasing, unattractive, or which
> contradicts its apparent intended purpose, try to understand why, so
> you
> can avoid making similar mistakes.

The "content and purpose of the book" exist within constraints,
particularly financial. Ideal proportions of white space mean more
pages, and more pages mean more costs all down the line: paper,
printing, binding, shipping, stocking. So modern books typically
skimp on the white space and if it looks fine to us, we've become
inured to it. But do we want to pay even more for books in order to
have a beautifully designed page? There's no free lunch.

There are a few principles I keep in mind when setting up a book
page. The inner margins should be smaller than the outer margins.
When we hold an open book, it presents itself as a unit and a
double-wide inner margin looks odd. The bottom margin should be
larger than the top margin. A bottom margin that's smaller than the
top margin makes the text block look like it's going to slide off
the bottom of the page. Make the bottom margin large enough so
readers' thumbs don't cover the text when they are holding the open
book. Outer margins large enough to hold some reader's annotations
are desirable.

The right type size for the length of the lines is important. One
and one-half alphabets per line (39 to 45 characters) is a common
suggestion, though you can't always adhere to it. The reason is that
for ease of reading, your eye shouldn't have to make several jumps
to take in the whole line. Too-long and too-short lines are
undesirable because they make it harder to read. Longer lines need
more leading so that the reader doesn't lose place while moving from
the end of one line to the beginning of the next. Too much leading
is also tiring to the reader. Typefaces with small x-heights do not
need as much leading as typefaces with tall x-heights.

Setting justified type is much harder than using left-aligned type
unless you are using a program with an excellent justification
algorithm. Spaces between letters and between words need to look the
same--not some big spaces between words on some lines and tiny
spaces on other lines, and not tight letter spacing in some words
and loose spacing in others. It takes much more work to adjust
hyphenation for justified type. Turn the page upside down so you can
check for rivers of white space running through the paragraphs. You
don't want those! Scribus at present in 1.3.3.x does not do
justified type easily or well (lots of manual adjustment needed), so
I avoid it and go with flush left.

Setting type is fussy but can also be great fun. Good luck!
--Judy M.

Registered Linux User #397786
Being productive with VectorLinux 6.0 Standard, Deluxe Edition

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